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Tonkinese are a medium-sized short-haired cat breed distinguished by points as with Siamese and Himalayans. They are commonly referred to as 'Tonks'. As with many cat breeds, the exact history of the Tonkinese varies to some degree depending on the historian.

Tonkinese cats are a recent cross between the Siamese and Burmese cat breeds, although some assert that Tonkinese-like cats have existed since at least the early 1800s, and the founding cat of the Burmese breed was probably a mink hybrid-colored cat. Some claim that the appearance of the breed is closer to the original appearance of the Siamese, before Siamese breeders developed today's triangular head and very leggy body. The name is not related to the Tonkin region of Indochina. When the breed was first established in Canada, the breed name was actually spelled "Tonkanese," which was a reference to the island in the musical South Pacific where "half-breeds" suffered no discrimination. The mistaken idea that the name was a geographical reference paralleling the Siamese and Burmese breed names resulted in a gradual switch to the current spelling, under which the breed was recognized by the US registering associations.

Tonkinese cats are commonly trim and muscular cats. They are usually intelligent, curious, affectionate with people, and interested in them. Tonks are playful cats, but not hyperactive, although they can be mischievous if they become lonesome or bored. Some interesting toys and a cat tree, or, better yet, another Tonkinese, will keep them occupied when you're not around. Unlike most varieties of cat, they are reported to sometimes, or even often, engage in fetching, and they can often be found perched on the highest object in the house.

Starting top going counter-clockwise: Blue Point, Platinum Mink and Champagne Mink.They are more like Burmese in temperament than Siamese, that is, less high-strung and demanding. Their voices are also less piercing (or raucous, depending on taste) in most cases than the Siamese, but most Tonks do like a good chat. Most observers feel they combine the more attractive features of both ancestor breeds.

Tonks exhibit a wide variety of coat colors and patterns. The three main patterns are sepia (solid), mink, and pointed. The mink variety is considered most desirable for show in some associations. The most commonly accepted colors are: lilac (platinum), champagne (chocolate), blue, and natural (seal). Typically, sepia patterned cats have gold or green eyes, cats with the pointed pattern are blue-eyed, and the mink cats have a shade of aquamarine. A great deal of subtle variation exists in colors and patterns, and Tonkinese body color darkens with age to some degree in all patterns.

Breeding two mink Tonkinese cats does not usually yield a full litter of mink pattern Tonkinese kittens, as the mink pattern is the result of having one gene for the Burmese sepia pattern and one for the Siamese pointed pattern. The statistical odds are that the result of such a mating would be one sepia kitten, one pointed kitten, and two mink kittens.

Those kittens that don't fit the breed standards perfectly are termed 'pet quality' and are usually sold as companion pets, and for less money, since they can't be exhibited. They still have the same Tonkinese charm and personality. The genetics of the coat coloring and its interaction with eye coloring is complex and fascinating, though perhaps not the main attraction for Tonk fans.

Tonkinese registered in associations with closed breed books may produce smaller litters of three or four kittens on average as a result of increasing inbreeding, but those registered where new blood can still be added to the breed tend to the traditional larger litters that come with hybrid vigor, usually having five or six kittens and sometimes more. Colors and patterns in any litter depend both on statistical chance and the color genetics and patterns of the parents. Breeding between two mink patterned cats will, on average, produce half mink kittens and one quarter each pointed and sepia kittens. A pointed and a sepia bred together will always produce all mink patterned kittens. A pointed bred to a mink will produce half pointed and half mink kittens, and a sepia bred to a mink will produce half sepia and half mink kittens






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